Airport showcases expansion projects

By Billy Corriher

Representatives from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport were at the state Capitol building on Monday to explain its new construction projects, passing out information and answering questions from state legislators.

As the airport continues work on its fifth runway and its new international East terminal, the airport wanted an opportunity to let the public and lawmakers know what the projects would mean for Georgia, said Lina James, the airport's special events manager.

"We're so busy with these expansion projects," she said. "And people need to know what's going on with the airport because we're all impacted."

The information session came a week after the airport reported near-record passenger traffic for last year, when about 79 million people traveled through the airport.

General Manager Ben Decosta said that, with airport traffic approaching its "pre-9/11" levels, the airport is planning on starting work on a new South terminal in 2010.

"It will be a domestic terminal with 30 gates," he said. "It will be connected to the existing terminal structure by a people mover."

The airport expects the East terminal, which it is working on now, to be open sometime between 2010 and 2012, depending on how much demand exists for the terminal.

The new fifth runway is scheduled for completion in 2006, but some Clayton County residents are wishing construction was already over.

Many residents of the Cherry Hills subdivision and other surrounding neighborhoods have complained about the noise and dust from the construction, and they worry about additional noise that will result when the runway is operational.

Doug Strachan, a noise mitigation specialist for the airport, said some residents want funding for noise reduction when the runway is finished, but the airport has to wait on revised noise contour maps before they can ask the federal government for any further funding.

"The (noise mitigation) program can't do anything until they get the new maps," he said.

The revision of the maps is part of a study the airport is conducting with local governments to examine noise caused by the airport.

"This study is a way for everybody to get together and figure out how we can reduce airport noise," he said.

Of all the surrounding cities and counties, Strachan said College Park has the strictest noise mitigation rules in its building codes.

"We're always encouraging local government to do what they can," he said. "(Reducing noise) is a shared responsibility."

Strachan said local governments can also address noise concerns through their land use policies, which Clayton County is in the process of revising this year.